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Wooden statue depicting a plague sufferer, Europe, 1601-1700

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Depicted on the statue is an emaciated plague sufferer lying on the ground surrounded by a frog and a lizard. The wooden carving is thought to have been made during the 1600s when Europe suffered devastating outbreaks of bubonic plague. In 1665, over 100,000 may have died of the disease in London alone. The most common manifestation of the disease was bubonic plague. This was spread by fleas carried by rodents. It spread swiftly in densely populated towns. The fleas became infected after sucking on the rat’s blood and then they spread the disease to humans. Symptoms included nausea, pain, delirium, high fever and the painful swollen boils (buboes) which give the disease its name. Sporadic plague outbreaks still occur. If contracted, it is treatable with drugs. The disease is now prevented with vaccinations.

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Glossary: statue

A sculpture in the round representing human or animal figures or small figure groups; a statuette is a smaller sculpture.

Glossary: plague

An acute contagious fever with high levels of mortality. Both the 'Black Death' that swept Europe in the 1340s and the Great Plague of London in 1665 are believed to have been bubonic plague.

Glossary: carving

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